Transformed in the Beloved — Center for Action and Contemplation

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Transformed in the Beloved

Mystical Marriage

Transformed in the Beloved
Friday, May 14, 2021

The infinite love that is the architect of our hearts has made our hearts in such a way that nothing less than an infinite union with infinite love will do. It’s the setup in the beginning. . . . That infinite love creates you as a capacity for love, for love’s sake alone. That love is our destiny, love is the fabric of the true nature of everything that’s happening. This is the love nature of life. —James Finley, Intimacy: The Divine Ambush

Few people understand the love poetry and mysticism of John of the Cross (1542–1591) better than my friend James Finley. I never tire of hearing him teach on John, whether it’s at our Living School or on his recent podcast. I offer a few stanzas of John’s poetry with nothing more to guide you than Jim Finley’s conviction that God’s “infinite love” is in all in us. This first passage is from the “The Ascent of Mount Carmel”:

On a dark night,
Inflamed by love-longing—
O exquisite risk!—
Undetected I slipped away.
My house, at last, grown still.

Secure in the darkness,
I climbed the secret ladder in disguise—
O exquisite risk!—
Concealed by the darkness.
My house, at last, grown still.

That sweet night: a secret.
Nobody saw me;
I did not see a thing.
No other light, no other guide
Than the one burning in my heart.

This light led the way
more clearly than the risen sun
To where he was waiting for me
—The one I knew so intimately—
In a place where no one could find us.

O night, that guided me!
O night, sweeter than sunrise!
O night, that joined lover with Beloved!
Lover transformed in Beloved!

Upon my blossoming breast,
Which I cultivated just for him,
He drifted into sleep,
And while I caressed him,
A cedar breeze touched the air. . . .

I lost myself. Forgot myself.
I lay my face against the Beloved’s face.
Everything fell away and I left myself behind,
Abandoning my cares
among the lilies, forgotten. [1]


This second passage is from “The Spiritual Canticle”:

O soul,
most beautiful among all creatures,
you who so long to know the place
where your Beloved is,
so as to seek him
and become one with him,
now it has been stated:
you yourself are the home in which he dwells.
Here is a reason to be happy;
here is a cause for joy:
the realization that every blessing
and all you hope for
is so close to you
as to be within you.
Be glad,
find joy there,
gathered together
and present to him
who dwells within,
since he is so close to you;
desire him there,
adore him there,
and do not go off
looking for him elsewhere . . .
There is just one thing:
even though he is within you,
he is hidden.  [2]

[1] John of the Cross, “The Ascent of Mount Carmel,” stanzas 1–6, 8, in Dark Night of the Soul, trans. Mirabai Starr (Riverhead Books: 2002), 23–24, 25.

[2] John of the Cross, “The Spiritual Canticle,” commentary on stanza 1, parts 7–8, in Saint John of the Cross: Devotions, Prayers & Living Wisdom, ed. Mirabai Starr (Sounds True: 2008), 39–40.

Season Three of James Finley’s podcast, “Turning to the Mystics,” focuses on St. John of the Cross.

Story from Our Community:
The cumulative effect of reading Fr. Richard’s meditations is that I have developed a deeper appreciation for the tradition in which I was raised, Roman Catholic. I have been given permission to let go of what doesn’t fit and embrace its mystical, contemplative tradition. This has created a deep longing to shed the separate self and has opened me up to the bounty of the Divine Healer within. The freedom that comes from this journey is indescribably rich and endless. —Theresa G.

Image credit: Chaokun Wang, swan (detail), 2017, photograph, Wikiart.
Image inspiration: The lines, curves and graceful beauty of the swan on water guide us into awe. Wouldn’t that be how one would respond to the presence of a beloved? God, the beloved. We, the beloved.
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